Friday, December 4, 2015

Coursera: Fantasy and Science Fiction: The Human Mind, Our Modern World (Part 6)

I'm posting this a day earlier than usual, because I'm probably going to have some news tomorrow. Anyway, for the last week, I read Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles (review to come). It's pretty good, and I really enjoyed it.

Locusts: A Close Analysis

As a "book of stories pretending to be a novel"[1], the stories in The Martian Chronicles stand alone while simultaneously fitting within a larger theme. This essay will focus on the story "Locusts", analysing it closely with an eye to how it fits within the book.

Situated within the first half of the book, this story is foretells the effect humans have on Mars. From the title alone, it is clear that the human migration to Mars is akin to a locusts plague. Like one of the ten plagues in the Bible [2], the humans will overrun Mars and strip it bare, as they do in the later stories. Within the story itself, Mars is changed "into a shape that was familiar to the eye", but markedly different from its original form. The plague of humans changes the face of the planet, like a locusts plague changes its affected area.

The story starts with the rockets, as they land on Mars. The changes they bring are instantaneous, such as transmuting "water to steam", and they permanently change the environment, through fire on the "bony meadows" and "rock to lava". This imply a lasting and large change for the planet.

In the middle section, men are building colonies on Mars. This would not be a strange sight, but the diction that Bradbury uses, by calling the men "steel-toothed carnivores" and describing their movements as "scuttled", something rather inhuman, makes the reader aware that man is the foreign, invading species here. The rockets may be described as "locusts", but the true plague on Mars are the humans.

Unfortunately, the story does not have a hopeful ending. Apart from the "ninety thousand people" who have already arrived, "more, on Earth, were packing their grips", and the locust plague will continue.

In summary, this story frames the invading humans as a destroyer of Mars, much like a plague of locusts.


[1]: Eller, Jonathan R., and William F. Touponce. Ray Bradbury: The Life of Fiction. Kent, Ohio: Kent State UP, 2004. Print.
[2]: The plague of locust is, specifically, from Exodus 10: 1-20

All quotes not cited were taken from The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury

Grade: 4

What I learnt: People will pick up on your little mistakes. Plus, a close analysis is ok, but people tend to want more complex themes.

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